Tigers punch ticket to St. Paul with Game 3 victory over No. 15 Western Michigan

yoon imageTwo third-period goals in two minutes and a frantic defensive effort in the closing minutes propelled Colorado College to victory and its first NCHC semifinals berth.

The Tigers held on for a 3-2 win in Game 3 at No. 15 Western Michigan on Monday night, garnering a semifinal berth against No. 1 St. Cloud State at 3:08 p.m. Mountain on Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

“I am just so proud of them,” Tigers coach Mike Haviland said in a radio interview. “They were not going to be denied tonight. They played extremely hard and the right way. Both teams really wanted it.”

CC pulled ahead 3-1 when Alex Berardinelli ended a 13-game scoreless streak with 14:14 left followed by a goal for Trevor Gooch with 12:14 remaining. Gooch tipped in a long-range shot by Bryan Yoon for the eventual game-winner.

“That felt good, especially going to three,” Gooch said. “Clarky has been our rock. Bryan put it in a nice place and I got a good piece of it. Once they got one, there wasn’t any panic in us so we shut them down over the final 21/2 minutes.”

“They played the game plan to a T and stayed with it,” Haviland said. “It was a great goal (by Gooch) off the faceoff.”

WMU pulled goalie Trevor Gorsuch (22 saves) with less than three minutes left and Austin Rueschhoff scored his second of the game. The extra-attacker tally came with 2:24 left, setting up a tense finish at Lawson Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich.

But CC junior goalie Alex Leclerc continued his strong play of late, recording 32 saves in the win.

“For me, it was about staying as calm as I can.” Leclerc said. “We were able to weather the storm and go on from there. Once Alex scored that goal we rode that wave the rest of the game. They sold out their bodies to stop the puck and make sure we cleared the puck out of our zone.”

The 17-18- 4 Tigers became the first road team to win a NCHC playoff series in four years (SCSU in 2015).

Befitting a win-or-go-home playoff series finale, both teams played with a physical edge with Western Michigan drawing a costly goalie interference penalty as emotions boiled over late in the first period.

CC senior Westin Michaud scored on the subsequent power play to make it 1-0 off assists from Mason Bergh and Yoon. Michaud skated down the left side and cut to the front of the Broncos net from where his shot beat Gorsuch.

“Michaud’s goal really got us going,” Haviland said.

Western Michigan tied the game with 1:11 left in the second period when Rueschhoff stuffed in a rebound after Leclerc made the initial save.

But it wasn’t enough for the Broncos (21-15-1), who were missing standout Wade Allison (unknown reason). The loss ended WMU’s season.

Both NCHC semifinals will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network with CC radio coverage starting 30 minutes before game time on 1240AM and 105.5 FM KRDO.

About paisleyhockey
I am a freelance writer specializing in sports with about 25 years of professional experience.

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